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‘Ya Marhaba’ Service: Damascus International Airport’s Pitch against Decrepit Condition | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A traveller walks to his flight at Ronald Reagan National Airport as the sun rises in Washington, September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)

London – Travel being an unlikely activity for Syrians, and crossing borders all the more difficult and complicated, a local transport company sought to provide an unprecedented initiative in hopes of rebooting tourism, reported a pro-regime media outlet.

The vacation industry has been close to obliterated for the war-torn Syria.

Tishreen state-owned Syria daily reported that the Director of the Syrian Company for Tourism, Dr. Nasser Qedban had posted on his Facebook page, that a new service ‘Ya Marhaba’ (Arabic for “Welcome!”) is now available for all Damascus International Airport visitors.

The service offers assistance with travel procedures, hotel booking and free luggage shipping. Provision of security detail is also an option.

Ironically, Tishreen pitched the news to local readers without paying any attention to the deteriorating state of the Damascus International Airport. A majority of Syrians travelers are reluctant to use the terminal for leaving the country, mostly for security reasons and the extreme vetting. Boarding Syrian lines has become a hard task with most international airports not granting then permission to access their services—not to mention the recent United States presidential order, which banned incoming visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, listing Syria, and the countless European sanctions facing the Syrian regime.

Travel destinations for Syrian lines have been largely reduced in number, transit flights are a must for travelers to reach Europe , the United State and Asia.

Commuter flights must be boarded at the very few airports still unloading Syrian airlines, most of which are located in some Arab countries, Iran, Russia and some Eastern European countries.

Over the course of the last four years, traffic primarily shifted to the Lebanon no.1 Beirut airport and to a lesser extent via Jordan’s Amman airport.

Passengers taking off via the Beirut airport are overcharged with the exorbitant rate of 200 percent, which are added to fees paid for the land cross border trip.

“ Syrians generally prefer to travel via the Damascus airport –given the hardship found in reaching Beirut, Amman, and steep prices– but the poor quality Syrian flight services, the chaos spread throughout the Damascus International Airport, and irregular flight takeoffs forces them to resort to Beirut terminals instead, ” a Damascus-based Travel and tourism service operator.

Commenting on the promised “Ya Marhaba” service, the operator said that “ If it truly falls through on promised services, it will mostly benefit inbound visitors seeking religious tourism in Damascus sites, a majority of which are expected from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan.”

“Regime-backing Shiite militias – given that Damascus International Airport is operating under regime authorities- will greatly benefit from the service. More so, civilian and military internal flights are expected from Damascus to war-locked Qamishli and Deir al-Zour,” the operative added.